Our family has always had a love affair with birds – owls in particular – and the children have become even more obsessed recently thanks to Harry Potter and his beloved Hedwig. So there was a lot of enthusiasm about visiting the National Centre for Birds of Prey in Helmsley, an award-winning attraction set in beautiful Duncombe Park. We’re happy to give it the Little Vikings seal of approval, and here’s why.
There’s a wonderful variety of birds
There’s a weird and wonderful range of birds to see, from sweet little owls not much bigger than the palm of your hand to vultures that you wouldn’t want to encounter on a dark night. All are brought to life with signs that are both informative and often witty: “I am a turkey vulture. Oh yes indeed. My head is bare to prevent rotting meat from sticking to me. To keep cool, I poo on my legs and feet. My main defence is…projectile vomiting! I am awesome”. As you can imagine, the kids absolutely loved it.
There’s a children’s trail
Children’s trails are nothing new, but they’re a great way to get kids interested and engaged when they’re visiting somewhere. Our kids loved the ink trail at the NCBP: they had to find stamps of birds of prey and their, er, prey. It kept them entertained the whole way round, so it’s top marks from us.
The flying demonstrations are fantastic
They say you should never work with children or animals, and we’d add birds of prey to that! There are three flying demonstrations throughout the day and they’re really entertaining, not least because the birds have minds of their own – why fly above paying customers when you could be soaring above the car park or exploring the skies out of everyone’s eyesight? You get to hear the birds’ stories – all different and all fascinating – and see them up close (sometimes very close indeed!). The demos were a real highlight of our visit so don’t miss them.
There’s a lovely cafe
We were impressed by the Owl House Cafe, with its cosy atmosphere, friendly staff, home-cooked food and reasonable prices.
It’s in Helmsley!
For a small town, there’s a surprising amount of things to do in Helmsley for families. As well as the National Centre for Birds of Prey, there’s Helmsley Castle (our kids love to run around the ruins), Helmsley Arts Centre (with regular children’s shows and events) and Helmsley Walled Garden (a very pretty place). There are some lovely places to eat and drink, too.